EMPIRE, Mich. (AP) - A man wanted on a domestic violence charge and his three young children were found safe Monday night at northern Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore after a search involving ground crews and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.
"The kids are all OK. The man is OK," said Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich. They were found about 7:50 p.m. on a hillside a rugged mile from where the man's car was found abandoned about 13 hours earlier.
The 50-year-old man from Orchard Lake was placed under arrest on the domestic violence charge and was being questioned. He will be jailed overnight and arraigned Tuesday in Emmet County, where the charge originated, Borkovich said.
It appears that the man and his children arrived the previous day and spent Sunday night in the woods without food, water or shelter, Borkovich said. He said they were "physically exhausted," and very hungry and thirsty. The children are the man's 14- and 10-year-old daughters and his 9-year-old son.
The motive for the man's actions was unclear, and authorities said they hoped interviews with him and the children would make it clearer.
"It seemed to be a spur-of-the-moment thing," said Phil Akers, chief ranger at the national lakeshore.
Borkovich characterized it as "a rogue camping event." He said the man's name would be withheld until he appeared in court.
The man was the subject of a massive search after an empty car he'd been driving was discovered near a museum at the lakeshore.
He was visiting family members in Emmet County when he got into a conflict with his wife Sunday. She filed a complaint against him, and the Emmet County Sheriff's Department issued a misdemeanor domestic violence warrant for him, Borkovich said.
"It's not like it's a military guy and a survival expert. It's a dad with kids," Borkovich said before the four were found safe. "We don't see any signs of struggle, any signs of violence. We don't have any threats of him doing any harm to himself, to the kids or his spouse. We don't have any signs whatsoever to indicate violence. What we have is either lost people or people hiding."
About 7 a.m. Monday, a lakeshore park ranger spotted a car with a dented door parked on a road near the Coast Guard Maritime Heritage Museum. Borkovich said the ranger ran the license plate and learned there was an alert for the vehicle.
There was something about the car itself that caused authorities to be concerned, but Borkovich declined to be specific.
Borkovich said searchers walked the shoreline and were going through wetlands and inland ridges. State police and Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department K-9 units and Michigan Department of Natural Resources crews also were aiding the search. Borkovich said volunteer firefighters and other emergency personnel were joining the search later Monday and planned to carry out a systematic search by grids of a large section of the park. He described the terrain as swampy and thick with trees and undergrowth.
Parts of the lakeshore, including the popular Dune Climb, were closed to the public while the search continued.